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The Nakba and the UN Partition Plan

The nascent UN issued its Partition Plan for Palestine on 29 November, 1947; less than a year later, the Nakba occurred, the embodiment of the creation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people and their displacement. Ever since, there has been a widespread debate amongst Palestinians and Arabs about whether accepting the Partition Plan despite its inherent injustice for the Palestinians would have been the better option; after all, having something is better than having nothing. Accepting the Partition Plan was arguably the only sensible option due to the balance of power, variables and situation at the time. However, the plan disappeared without trace once the ethnic cleansing and genocidal massacres by Zionist gangs began, allowing them to seize control of the largest possible amount of land beyond the borders set out by the UN.

The Partition Plan was rejected because it gave the proposed state for Jews 56.5 per cent of the land despite the fact that there were only 614,000 Jews in Palestine and 1.363 million Palestinians at that time. It was rejected despite all forms of persuasion, encouragement, privileges, cooperation and assistance from the British, who authored the infamous Balfour Declaration 30 years previously and gave property to those who did not deserve it; and despite the massacres, arrests, home demolitions, executions and all forms of bullying and intimidation. The Palestinian state was proposed by the UN to cover 43 per cent of historic Palestine, with the rest, including Jerusalem and its surrounding area, to be an international zone.

The bottom line, however, for most Palestinians and Arabs who rejected the Partition Plan, was that it was unjust and violated the rights of the indigenous people in the land. They believed that accepting it would have meant accepting defeat. Their rejection, though, was not the reason why the Arab state was not established, as claimed by those who promoted acceptance of the plan; it was the presence of armed Jewish militias, the aforementioned Zionist gangs, which conspired with and were supported by the British Mandate authorities. They argued that the Palestinians and Arabs refused the plan and then took advantage of the official Arab weakness and disappointment. The Arab armies who came to rescue the Palestinians were in any case significantly weaker than the Jewish Haganah, Stern Gang and other Zionist militias, many of whose members had been trained and armed by the British Army.

Despite this, the Palestinian and Arab debates continued amongst those who accepted the Partition Plan and those who rejected it. The debate reached the extent that many people were convinced, after the start of the modern Palestinian revolution and almost 10 years after the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), that the rejection of the UN plan was a mistake that contributed towards the loss of Palestinian rights. This conviction was one of the factors that led to the complete change of the liberation and return programme into a state programme realised by means of negotiations with the occupiers. This process began in 1974 when the PLO's Ten Point Plan was approved. This was later developed into the "return and state" programme through struggle and the use of all forms of struggle and political work, until it became a "state" programme by means of negotiations and "proving merit and institution-building" along with an "agreed upon solution" for the refugee issue and land swaps.

Experience is the greatest evidence, as the saying goes, and experience has proven that the policy of "saving what can be saved" did not actually save anything. Instead, it led to disastrous results that cannot even be compared to those of the comprehensive liberation programme, despite the fact that neither achieved full Palestinian rights or objectives.

The Palestinian policies of "moderation", bilateral negotiations, stopping any resistance, recognising Israel, security coordination and economic dependence did not lead to the "moderation" of Israel and its acceptance of a Palestinian state on just 22 per cent of historic Palestine. The concessions made by the Palestinians whet Israel's appetite further, encouraging it to demand yet more, even though Israel has claimed since its establishment and since the signing of the Oslo Accords that it is always extending its hand in peace to the Arabs, "but the Arabs keep refusing and insist on eliminating us". However, the truth is that Israel does not want to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians that will allow a state of Palestine on the 1967 borders, or even their minimum rights.

After the PLO agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied in 1967 and recognition of the Israeli state on 78 per cent of Palestine, Israel began to talk about the division of the West Bank. Its best case scenario would include keeping Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem occupied in 1967, as the "eternal capital" of Israel; refusing to withdraw from the 1967 borders; annexing the "major settlement blocs"; annexing the Jordan Valley, or at least controlling it militarily; and annexing or controlling other strategically vital areas in terms of religion, the economy, the military, security and history.

As such, whether or not the Palestinian and Arabs had agreed to the division of their homeland in accordance with the UN Partition Plan, we would have seen the same result. Approval of partition would have been used to "prove" that the Jews were right in support of their historical narrative that Palestine is the "Promised Land" and therefore the nation-state of the Jews. Hence, if the Palestinians had agreed to partition, their cause would have died there and then, and they would have settled in the lands where they sought refuge from the Zionist ethnic cleansing and massacres, taking their historical right, legacy, struggle, culture and national identity with them.

Our only consolation, despite all of these losses, catastrophes and suffering, is that the Palestinian cause is still alive and can still be saved if we learn lessons from our past experience. The most important thing to remember is that struggling to achieve all that is possible in each stage does not contradict with knowing the facts about the balance of power, maintaining our natural and historical rights, adhering to our means of pressure and working to increase them; instead it actually requires this. Thus, we are able to link our past to our present and gain inspiration from its lessons and examples; and we can then proceed to the future we seek.

Translated from Masarat, 14 May, 2015.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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